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Chapter 50:

Letters of General Grant to General Badeau

the following letters are printed exactly as they were written by General Grant, without either correction or modification of the language, and entirely without addition by me. There are only four omissions or excisions in the series, and these are all indicated.

I was so closely and almost incessantly by Grant's side in the first four years of our intercourse that I received hardly any letters from him during that period. Our correspondence can hardly be said to have begun until I went to Europe in 1869, immediately after he became President. Even then his letters were infrequent; I wrote to him, except when I was in America, once or twice a month during his Presidential terms, but I always sent my letters unsealed and under cover to his private secretaries, General Porter and General Babcock, and his reply was usually contained in the letters they wrote to me; of these I have several hundred, but they of course are in the language of the writers, and comprise many other matters besides the messages of President Grant.

But after his arrival in Europe his intimacy with me was renewed and deepened. He passed several weeks at my house, and I accompanied him, with rare exceptions, wherever he went, both in Great Britain and Ireland, and during his first Continental tour. I visited him afterward in Paris and Rome, and went with him as far as Marseilles when he finally sailed for the East. During this period he gave me [463] more of his confidence than ever before, and treated me with a familiarity I had not enjoyed either during the war or in the four years afterward in Washington, or during my visits to America while he was President. He seemed at this time to throw away much of the reserve that he maintained with nearly everybody else, and Mrs. Grant often told me that I appeared nearer to him than any other man except his own sons. I lived with him as one of his family; I shared the expenses when we traveled together. We were often among those whose language he did not speak; his son Jesse, who was of the party, was too young to be really a companion, and for months I was the only man who could talk with him on terms of intimacy. We discussed all his military record hundreds of times, and he read and revised repeatedly the portions of his history on which I was then engaged. We talked of his political career, and he told me many of the events of his Presidency that had occurred while I was separated from him. He understood fully my intention to write his civil history, and allowed me to ask any questions upon disputed points; and I could never perceive that he withheld a complete reply, or was unwilling to give me his opinion on any public event of his career, or his judgment of any man with whom he had ever been associated.

But it was in purely personal matters that I got closer still. In what affected his character or feeling he allowed me to probe him strangely, as well as to suggest an isolated step or outline a general conduct for the present or future. Of course he often did not follow my suggestions, but he was never offended at them, and I felt that in many matters I was able to influence his action, both during his European tour and in the years that I passed in America after his and my return.

These letters are the proof and illustration of what I say, as well as of what has preceded in this volume. I give them in their chronological order, prefacing or adding such remarks [464] of my own as may be necessary to explain the circumstances under which they were written or the opinions they contain. They may sometimes suggest to me other facts or utterances of importance or interest, and these comments of mine will serve, I trust, as a thread to bind the letters together and give a certain unity to the whole. About half a dozen of the letters have already been printed entire in the earlier pages of this volume, where they peculiarly illustrate the theme or vindicate its treatment; but I have thought it better to repeat them in the complete series than to interrupt the continuity, for toward the close the letters will be found almost to form a connected narrative.

They contain so many references to my own affairs that in order to make them intelligible I have been obliged to say more of myself and my concerns than would otherwise be delicate or desirable. But whatever explains or elucidates Grant's language I have supposed would be interesting to the world. In the same spirit I have left unchanged a few passages that may give pain, rather than mutilate his letters or misrepresent his feelings or opinions. General Grant will be so prominent a figure in history that personal considerations become insignificant in the attempt to portray him in his habit as he lived.

There are few men, however, whose private letters would bear such public inspection, or in whose intimate thoughts and expressions the world can find so little to criticize or friends so little to wish unsaid. This disclosure will reveal nothing to General Grant's dishonor, and no more faults will be found than every one has already known that he possessed as the common lot of humanity; while no one can read this correspondence carefully without obtaining not only a better insight into his character, but a profounder impression of his personal and public virtues. To me the more intimately I knew him the more he became the object of affection and admiration. His very weaknesses made him [465] seem more human, and his excellences were never diminished by being studied close at hand. He was greater and better in my eyes than to any of those who stood further off and were blinded either by the mists of their own passions or the halo of his position and deeds.

One word more: although General Grant was so reticent and almost secretive with individuals, he was not so with the world. He was willing for much to be known about himself that he could not bring himself to utter. He never suggested that one word I wrote about his personal characteristics in my ‘Military History’ or in a political memoir on which this work is founded, should be omitted or changed. He listened in advance to an article in The Century Magazine for May, 1885, in which I disclosed and discussed many of his most peculiar qualities. Mrs. Grant suggested and he sanctioned a paragraph for that article, about his family relations, which was so personal that the editor struck it out and refused to publish it, although I protested. He read and revised the paper I wrote for the New York Mail and Express in 1885, describing the origin of his ‘Memoirs’; and in those memoirs themselves he showed himself willing to disclose details of his life and character and sentiment quite as sacred as any that I have revealed. I believe that, with the portraiture which this volume affords the subject himself would be satisfied, could he know its character and its effect upon his fame.

Letter no. One.

This note explains itself. It shows the interest Grant took in the great question of Reconstruction which so affected his own action and career, and betrays the democratic simplicity of the General-in-Chief and virtual dictator over the conquered territory; for this Caesar traveled in a street-car.

headquarters armies of the United States, Jan'y 17th, 1866.
Col.,—I am going to the Senate Chamber to hear the speeches on reconstruction this afternoon and will not be back to the office [466] again. Please tell the orderly that brings my horse to return with him, as I will go home in the cars.

Yours, &c.,

Letter no. Two.

This is the letter already printed in Chapter XVII, on ‘Grant as a Presidential Candidate.’ It requires no further comment or elucidation than it there received.

headquarters Army of the United States, Galena, ill., Aug. 18th 1868.
Dear Badeau,—As I have concluded to remain here until about the close of Sept., I think you had better open the letters that have accumulated in Washington. Such as are on official business refer to Rawlins. All others do with as your judgment dictates, only do not send any to me except such as you think absolutely require my attention and will not keep till my return. If you are not otherwise more agreeably engaged I think you will find it pleasant here for a while and then to return with me. I have also written to Comstock to come out if he feels like it. The family are all well.

Yours Truly,

Letter no. Three.

General Grant suffered all his life from severe headaches proceeding from biliousness. The movements of armies were sometimes delayed by this cause. I remember that during the march from the Wilderness, a halt of a day was called while he lay suffering at Maggahick Church, and in the Appomattox campaign he was nearly blind with pain when he got the news that Lee was willing to surrender; but this cured him.

Jan. 12th 1869.
Dear Gen'l,—Say to the people who I appointed to-day to meet that I have a severe headache and will not leave the house. I cannot see any one here on business either during the day.

Yours Truly,


Letter no. Four.

This is the correspondence with me on the day of Grant's first inauguration, 1869, already given in Chapter XIX, on ‘Cabinet Making.’ It is worth noting that the first line he wrote as President was to appoint an hour when he would receive the present of a Bible.

March 4, 1869.
Dear General,—Mr. George H. Stuart is one of a committee of three, the other two being the Chief-Justice and Senator Frelinghuysen, who desire to present you, in the name of some religious society, with a Bible. They will wait on you whenever you say—except that the Chief-Justice must be at the Supreme Court, and Mr. Stuart leaves town to-morrow night. If you will send word to me what hour will suit you, I will let Mr. Stuart know. Mr. Stuart proposes to-morrow morning before ten o'clock, or if the court does not meet till eleven, before that time.

With great respect,

Your obedient servant,

Adam Badeau. The President of the United States.

The bearer will wait for an answer; if you are out he will still wait till your return.
P. S.—I have just learned positively that the Supreme Court does not meet until eleven.

On the back of this the new President penciled:

To-morrow before 10 A. M. at my house, or between 10 A. M. & 3 P. M. at the Executive Mansion.

U. S. G.

Letter no. Five.

This letter is the one referred to in Chapter XXIII, on ‘Grant and Motley.’ It was written, as I there state, in reply to one of mine suggesting that Grant should say something to me commending Motley which I could show to the Minister. The ‘utterances’ that he speaks of were one or two public speeches of

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